The issue of migration is seldom out of the headlines. It has been said that conflict in Syria has been the catalyst for the biggest humanitarian crisis the world has experienced since the second world war. The topic is one that touches us all. Indeed, our church partners around the world have been talking to USPG about these issues for many years, with the arrival and departure of people from communities creating both challenges and opportunities.

Of course, migration is not a new phenomenon; people have always been on the move. Let’s take the British Isles as an example.

According to Prof Peter Donnelly, of Oxford University: ‘Everyone in Britain is an immigrant. There was no-one in Britain 10-11,000 years ago. It is only a question of when people arrived.’

The point being made is that – whether speaking of Britain or Ireland – those described as ‘indigenous’ people are in fact descendants of Angles, Celts, Franks, Frisians, Jutes, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and others who have arrived over the millennia. In the nineteenth century, Britain saw an influx of Irish people fleeing famine and Jewish people fleeing persecution. In the last century, migrants arrived from the Indian subcontinent, Hong Kong, the West Indies and China. And, more recently, there’s been an increase in arrivals from Africa and Europe. And the movement goes both ways; over the same period, millions have left Britain and Ireland to begin new lives around the world.

So, where do we belong, if anywhere – and why does this matter? The aim of this course is to open up these topic for discussion. We will be exploring the differences between migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. And we will be looking at the issues of human trafficking and population displacement due to climate change.

Some people migrate because they are seeking a better life, others are fleeing war, persecution or environmental disaster – while others have been abducted and forced to work as sex workers or slave labour.

Whatever the particular circumstances, we are challenged as Christians to consider our response. This study course does not claim to have the answers, but we hope it will inspire us to engage more deeply with the issues.

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